Another view from the sandbox

Last week I mentioned an article by a US Army sergeant serving as part of the surge in Baghdad. Today, I’d like to post a letter from an anonymous “junior officer” whose experiences have led him to an entirely different set of conclusions [the letter was not sent to me so I cannot verify its authenticity]. Who’s right? Obviously I have no way of checking on either one of them, so it’s entirely possible that they both are.

Begin letter:

I agree that the war was a great strategic mistake. The way I see it, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and therefore a huge stumbling block to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.

Yes, he was an evil person and he was our enemy (since Gulf War I) but he was also an enemy of Bin Laden and the Shiite extremists etc. If he did have WMDs, he would have used them for regional influence. He never would have given them up to terrorists or risked provoking the US by using them against us. Now, with Saddam gone we have a vaccum that can only be filled by Shiite extremists who are more of a terrorist threat than Saddam.

So I agree that coming here was a big mistake for those reasons and others. As far as things on the ground, the outlook isn’t much better. In my opinion, what everyone fails to realize is that this is not a counterinsurgency. If we wanted to stay in Iraq, then it would be a counterinsurgency. But it is clear that our goal is to turn over power and pull out. So, in building our strategic endstate, it’s pointless to set goals that relate to our presence in Iraq.

If the “insurgency” is a function of our being there, then it is not an insurgency in terms of our endstate. For example, if one of our goals is to stop IED attacks on US forces, that is pointless. When we leave, there will be no more IED attacks on us forces. So our endstate needs to be different. We need to ask “if we left tomorrow, what would happen in Iraq?” and from there, we need to determine which of those anticipated results are unacceptable to us. Then we must aim our efforts on making sure those unacceptable results do not occur.

When I look at the problem that way, it becomes almost impossible to find a purpose in what we do. Regardless of what we do, the Shiites are going to take control. They have completely infiltrated all the security forces. The only kind of leader who could keep them in check was a tyrant like Saddam. And when the Shiites take control, as soon as we leave, they are going to be as brutal as they like against the Sunnis and there will be little we can do about it. That is what will happen whether we leave tomorrow or in ten years.

As far as the foreign fighters, they will leave Iraq when we do. So what are we trying to accomplish here? Train the Iraqi forces? History shows that training forces in the Middle East can backfire. Any training we offer these people will find its way to our terrorist enemies.

Things are heating up as well. The Shiites are getting more agressive.

We lost a man the other day and another was seriously wounded a week or so later. We’re facing a high risk with very little potential payoff. We are able to make a difference at the local level. Some of the people are very kind and appreciate our help. That is the only positive thing I can see coming out of this.

Very Respectfully
Junior Officer XXXX

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